Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Going Crunchy

Back in early February, or maybe even late January, a friend posted this link on facebook, and I decided to check it out.

A few years ago, my mom started to follow the "no-poo" method of washing her hair, and seemed quite satisfied with it.  I, on the other hand, was not.  I tried it as a way of being supportive, but I just could not stand the way my hair felt while I was washing it.  I've always felt the need to have my shampoo lather dramatically in order to feel like my hair is really clean.

Turns out, this link was a new method of doing the same thing - washing your hair with baking soda and conditioning with apple cider vinegar - which looked like it might actually work for me...

Wait, what?
Did I just say that washing my hair with baking soda and conditioning with apple cider vinegar might work for me?

Either I was turning into a crazy person, or her way of presenting evidence was actually convincing.
Seriously.  You should go check out what she said, because I'm not about to try to one-up her by explaining it all again.

Also, while I was busy being convinced about natural hair care, I decided I might as well jump into the natural skin care world as well, so I clicked on her "beauty" tag and found this.

I was immediately interested in the idea of exfoliating with coffee grounds, since I've always felt like there must be something else to do with them other than just throwing them away after one use.

One thing led to another, and I wound up devoting almost an entire day to looking into natural skin care ideas, especially the one known as "Oil Cleansing."

Again, I'm not going to go into the whys and wherefores and with whats of oil cleansing, because so many people have already done that before me.  What I will tell you about is my own process with the natural hair and skin care I have settled on, and how those decisions have affected my body.  If you're interested in more info, I found quite a few things which appeared reputable (and more which did not, of course) by googling and

Two disclaimers before we really get going on this discussion:

1)  Throughout the whole process, I kept coming across people describing themselves and their lifestyle as "crunchy."
I eventually went and looked it up on Urban Dictionary.  While I would not, by any means, call myself "crunchy" to the same extent as most of those other folks, I do have a bit of that back-to-basics attitude built into my personality, and I welcome any chance to work something less processed and more natural into my life.
Also?  It just made me laugh, because, when Baby Sister was small, she said "crunchy" instead of "country."  Ever since then, I've loved the word.

2)  I am not advocating anything that particular girl I've linked to has to say in general.  I don't follow her blog or anything, but I do feel like what she had to say about natural hair and skin care was spot on (not to mention easy and entertaining to read), so I've linked to those posts.

When I first read her baking soda and apple cider vinegar method, it really resonated with me for some reason, and I just knew it was going to work.  Don't ask me how.  I just knew.

And boy, was I right.

You guys!  Let's talk about my hair before this change.  I've always had slightly thin, pretty oily hair with some texture.  I've never dyed or permed my hair, nor do I use a large amount of products in it.  (In fact, I probably use hairspray an average of once every six or eight months).  I've tried quite a few products over the years - mostly ones that say they'll "add volume"- but I never can seem to get any of them to do what they say they're going to do.  I've used the same treatment on my ends since I was 16 or so, and have no interest in ever doing anything different, but I was never able to find any other product that I was interested in using consistently.  I even flitted around to different shampoos very regularly, never settling on one favorite.

I've always had a love-hate relationship with my hair's texture.  It just wasn't consistent - generally coarser and wavier on one side, and limp on the other.  Also, it tended to curl out on my right side, and in on my left.  I place a very high value on symmetry and consistency, so this incongruity threw me off all the time.

Then, when I started this baking soda and apple cider vinegar method, all of that went out the door.  I had no idea how much natural body and uniformity my hair could have without all the gunk from shampoos and conditioners full of extra chemicals.

Now, I'm not saying that I naturally look like a southern beauty queen every morning.
In the first place, I'm not blonde...

But really?  I'm in love with my hair lately.  I would venture to say that I haven't had a bad hair day since February.  My hair is fuller than it has ever been, and the texture is so even!  Also, it just obeys me better in general.  I'm happy, and don't intend to change anything any time soon.

The thing I'm still trying to figure out is the deep conditioning with coconut oil.  I think last time around was my first "good" turnout.  But only "good," not "excellent" or anything.  I took a teeny amount (like maybe a teaspoon and a half) and just put it on the ends, then washed with regular shampoo and conditioner.  I'm not in love with that, though, because I feel like my hair misbehaves whenever I wash it with that stuff now.  It seems, though, that theres no other way to get coconut oil out of hair.

That's the only thing I'm not entirely satisfied with about this baking soda and apple cider vinegar thing - it sort of dries my hair out on the ends so that it does need a deep condition at least once a month.  Other than that, though, I couldn't be happier.  In fact, I'm so happy with how my hair dries naturally, I rarely even blow-dry it anymore.  It's incredibly low-maintenance!

***UPDATE - I eventually became very unsatisfied with how dry my hair was after months of this method.  My current hair routine can be found here.

Now, about that oil cleansing I started.  It's been quite the journey, and not nearly as simple as the hair care.

I really started it on a whim.  The very day that I did all that research, I got a bottle of castor oil and one of jojoba oil, as that was what I'd seen touted as good for sufferers of acne.  I started out with equal parts castor and jojoba, knowing full well that it was probably too strong (castor oil is very drying), but wanting to find my own blend.

The first night and following day, I loved it!  I discovered, about a week in, that I needed to increase to two parts Jojoba and one Castor Oil, because i was drying out my skin more than I would have liked it to.  It's kind of crazy to think of oil as drying, huh?  But it sure can be.

My process was as follows:
  1. Wet my face with warm water
  2. Pour a quarter sized drop of the oil blend in my palm
  3. Rub my palms together
  4. Massage the oil into my entire face (sidenote:  It doubles as an excellent make-up remover, so no need to do that first!)
  5. Wet a washcloth with HOT water so that it will steam, wring it out, and lay it over my face 2 or 3 times in a row. DON'T BURN YOURSELF!
  6. Wash oil off with rag and warm water
This whole process is so luxurious with the steam and the smooth oil, and it leaves my skin feeling super soft and moisturized - not at all oily like you would imagine.  I know it seems intimidating, and possibly gross, at first, but I would recommend it to anyone!  Also, it's kind of a long process, but the good news is you only have to do it once a day (some people do it even less than that, but I think once a day is best for me).

It's the perfect relaxing night-time ritual.  In the morning, I just get up, put on a little moisturizer, and sometimes makeup, and I'm ready to go!

Everything that I read said things would get worse before they got better but my skin was immediately better than it had ever been before!  I'm not a terrible sufferer of acne.  I'd say mine is mild to medium, and I've never considered taking medication or anything, but I'd be lying if I said having it consistently from my teens into my mid-to-late twenties hasn't been pretty discouraging.  So, to find something this simple that actually worked was beyond exciting.  I even had friends and family making comments about how fantastic my skin was looking.

I think I went through a little honeymoon phase, then reality hit:
Jojoba oil is not cheap.  It's not necessarily expensive, but it is not, by any means, cheap.  So, when I ran out of my bottle of jojoba, I decided to try sweet almond oil, which I had seen listed as a substitute for people who are allergic to jojoba.  It was literally less than half the price, so I thought I had hit the jack-pot.

*Spoiler Alert*  I had not, in fact hit anything like a jack-pot.

As soon as I started using the sweet almond oil, my skin went back to it's original condition, if not getting a little worse.  Also? Sweet almond oil smells strange - not sweet - almost bitter, actually.

I gave sweet almond the benefit of the doubt, and decided to use up the bottle, then see if I needed to switch back to Jojoba - maybe my skin was reacting to the change, and would straighten out (hopefully sooner, rather than later).

Well, sooner and later both came, and no dice.  My skin was still breaking out pretty consistently.  I wasn't to the end of the bottle, but I had HAD IT with this stuff.

Finally, yesterday, I went into my local natural foods store, and...


I may or may not have acted like a 14-year-old drama queen, but they took my name and phone number so they could notify me as soon as the shipment comes in.

Now you may all proceed to wait expectantly on your tip-toes with me.

SO, verdict is:  I love oil cleansing, but only with a very specific blend of oils.

Strangely enough, Baby Sister (who tried it right along with me, like a doll) found that she liked sweet almond better...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Small Town Saturday: Kite Festival Edition

Sorry for my recent disappearance!  The combination of a mini-vacation/reunion/birthday event with dear friends, and some mean shoulder tension, and, you know, life, meant that, once again, this little blog was left behind for a little while.  I'm working on some life adjustments right now, that hopefully will lead to somewhat "regularly scheduled programming" around here.  I'll let y'all in on the details soon(ish)...

In the meantime, enjoy Small Town Saturday, c/o the Kite Festival, which was not this past Saturday, but the Saturday before:

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There were rows of these guys around the field to show when the wind was blowing - such a cute little detail!

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Yep, that's me, flying kites with the best of 'em.

You guys, there were so many people there!  I know these pictures don't really express that, but, trust me, there were.

Mostly, it was young families and grandparents, but there were a few adults who were serious about their kite-flying, and even a few people who got their kites up in the air, then tied the strings to camp chairs and disappeared.
I did not understand those people, especially since, when there's only a chair there, and no human beings, you don't automatically assume you're going to have to tangle with a kite string, so you run blindly into near catastrophe... or maybe that was just me.

There were a few "special" kites flying around, i.e. a giant caterpillar, and his flying friends much higher above the ground.

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The kiddos had such fun running around under that thing.  I wished the two little guys I nanny could have been there to join in the fun.  There had been a huge storm the night before, though, that had done some significant damage to their property, so they were at home.

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Actually, the majority of people there named the storm as their reason for coming out - about half the county was out of power, and when it's sunny outside and there's a kite festival going on, why stay in a house with no electricity?
My family had long planned this as an intentional outing - (Why yes, I did just say "outing"...) - when you have all the sisters in town, why not go to the Kite festival even though you do have electricity?

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Even Grandma enjoyed watching everyone's kites from under her parasol.

Of course quite a few of Baby Sister's friends were there, and I got a chance to have freak out moments over the fact that people I used to baby-sit are in their late teens, and some even 20 years old...

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Not to mention interacting like grown up people (and looking like them too)!

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Seriously.  Look at these people.
Not to embarrass her, but I started baby-sitting that girl on the left when she was being potty-trained.  POTTY-TRAINED, people.
Please tell me I'm not that old.
How did they get to be these beautiful, grown up people giving me thumbs-up after a good run with a kite?
I. Do. Not. Understand.

Speaking of a good run with the kite, I was pretty proud of myself.  I probably hadn't flown a kite since I was 7 or something, but it came right back to me as soon as I got it in my hands.  It was almost all the way to the end of its reel at one point...

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Yep, these are the kind of accomplishments, I'm proud of lately.  Maybe you call that perspective? Five years ago, I might have been embarrassed to be seen flying a kite, now I run madly through the public with one...

As did my sisters.

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So casual and relaxed as she flies her kite with one hand like a pro...

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We literally stayed in an open field for 4 hours before we decided to go home.

Well, with a small break to rest on our picnic blanket and stare at the kite(s) in the sky...

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... and get thoroughly sun-burned.  Yep.  It was painful, my friends.  Someday, I'll learn to apply sunscreen, I hope.

Oh, and a few trips to the food trucks.

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It was lovely.